Charlottesville Breaking News

Unique view: 'Butler' offers riveting history of race relations

By Richard Roeper

By the time Jane Fonda shows up as Nancy Reagan and we realize that's Alan Rickman beneath the makeup playing Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels' The Butler, we've been conditioned to expect the unexpected.    

This movie has one of the most astonishing casts of any film I've ever seen – and I mean that mostly in a good way.    

More on all that later. Lee Daniels' The Butler— and we have to use that cumbersome title due to a legal dispute that prevented the studio from calling this The Butler— is a sweeping, often deeply moving look at race relations in 20th-century America as seen through the prism of a man who served in the White House from the Truman administration through the Reagan years.    

Forest Whitaker gives one of the signature performances of his brilliant career as the title character. Playing his wife, Oprah Winfrey deserves award consideration for the rich, nuanced work she does...

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Investing in the future: Albemarle weighs pre-k expansion

Kelly Shifflett tears up when she talks about turning needy families away from Bright Stars, Albemarle County’s preschool program for at-risk youth.

And in recent years, the number of those calls the Bright Stars Program Coordinator has had to make has only increased, rising from 79 children on the waitlist to 86 in the last three years.

“For the families, it’s hard for them to understand why they aren’t accepted,” Shifflett says. “It’s hard to tell these parents who get it that we don’t have room for the child.”


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Prohibited signs

One of my early jobs was stapling placards for “International Productions” in Richmond. There is wisdom in hiring juveniles to do the illegal work.

Commentator Bill Emory puts up a new photo nearly every day at

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Back up: Manual transmission's causing pain

Dear Tom and Ray:       

I have painful, incapacitating sciatica on the left side, most likely from constantly engaging the extremely hard clutch in my 2000 Toyota Celica. Have you heard of this association? I'm wondering if the clutch can be adjusted so that it's looser. Or, if not, how should I go about finding an easier-to-clutch used car with manual transmission that is not a lemon or too costly to maintain?— Jill       

RAY: We're not doctors, Jill ... although my brother does make the other mechanics at the shop work in hospital johnnies every week as part of Casual Friday.      
TOM: That's just to give the customers some laughs. And because they find the open-back design to be cooler in the summer.       
RAY: You can't adjust the feel of the clutch, Jill. Assuming it's always been like this and didn't suddenly change, it is what it is. In fact, we've always found Toyota clutches particularly light and easy to shift.       
TOM: So forget about making an appointment with your mechanic. Instead, make an appointment with a good physical therapist. On top of that, we'd recommend several other things if we were your medical-automotive advisers:        
RAY: No. 1, get a car with an automatic transmission. If a clutch is causing you incapacitating pa...

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Past misdeeds: Can boyfriend's mom make it up?

Dear Carolyn:     

From what my daughter's boyfriend has told me of his childhood, his mom sounds cold, unloving, even borderline abusive. He's quick to reassure me that she's changed since then. But I can't unhear what I've heard.     

I know the default is to be cordial when I meet her and give her the benefit of the doubt, but how do I handle it if she puts him down in my presence?— Uncharted Territory

This is actually two questions. The first is how to handle what you've heard, and the second is how to handle what you witness.     

For the former I recommend, yes, the benefit of the doubt, but you can't half-heart it, or else you'll take the slightest of her transgressions as license to believe the worst.     

So try looking at yourself through this lens for a moment. Page through your memories of raising your daughter, and fix on a couple of your lowest moments. Times you yelled, times you acted selfishly, times you said something mean. Now imagine your daughter spinning these tales for a therapist. Yikes.     

You may know these were deeply regretted exceptions, typical and human and duly mended, but you also need to know that, if phrased just-so to someone who wasn't there and doesn't know you, these could paint a scary picture of you. Of anyone.&n...

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Editor's Note
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